The Austin Chronicle

Game of Aces

Rated R, 97 min. Directed by Damien Lay. Starring Chris Klein, Victoria Summer, Werner Daehn, Randy Oglesby.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 2, 2016

The aces in this movie are not wild as in a deck of cards; instead they are pilots stuck in the Arabian Desert during World War I. German ace Captain Josef von Zimmerman (Daehn) is a double agent whose aircraft has been shot down in the middle of nowhere. Bearing intelligence meant for the British Allied Forces, the general (Oglesby) sends in a crew of two on a rescue mission: British nurse and German translator Eleanor Morgan (Summer) and the unconventional American ace Jackson Cove (Klein). Zimmerman, however, has contracted a case of amnesia as a result of his crash landing, so he’s forgotten that he’s a double agent and regards his rescuers as the enemy. Thus begins a cat-and-mouse chase across the desert that transpires by foot and by jeep and by any means necessary.

These dynamics are the setup for a creative chase scenario, although the film has too many weak elements that impede its smooth progression. In some technical ways, the ambitious film suffers from its tight budget. The Arabian Desert looks more like the deserts of California, and indeed, Game of Aces was filmed in Death Valley. The clothing appears contemporary rather than vintage, and I’d love to know the secrets of Eleanor’s beauty products that keep her lipstick bright red and the sand from caking in her heavy lashes. Shades of a bickering African Queen-like relationship between Eleanor and the American captain might engage viewers if only the repartee were wittier. The camerawork by Mark Christian keeps all the faces and action foregrounded, and sometimes inexplicably pushes the images outside the strict boundaries of the frame. Writer/director Damien Lay’s screenplay has some head-scratchers in addition to its flat dialogue, but it’s clear that the airplanes rather than the characters are his real passion. Unfortunately, his film never takes flight.

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